Bara Brith Blondies

a fresh, bite-sized twist on a Welsh classic…
Bara Brith Blondies Recipe - Welsh Food and Drink - The Cardiff Cwtch

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus! (Happy Saint David’s Day!) …For yesterday! The Welsh weather was hilariously on form all weekend – one minute sunny, the next minute rain, thunder, hail stones… And so my Saint David’s Day weekend was spent indoors (are we ever going to get a dry weekend?). Most of my Saturday was spent pottering around in the kitchen whipping up a few of my favourite Welsh Bakes to dole out to family and friends, and then on Sunday – I scoffed the lot. Standard. Obviously I made a massive batch of Welshcakes (I mean, it’s criminal not to scoff at least a dozen Welshcakes on Saint David’s Day, I think you’ll agree…), tried my hand at Aberffraw Shortbread, and I also made these Bara Brith Blondies.

Let’s be honest, Welsh Cakes and Bakes are never going to win any beauty contests; they’re pretty much the equivalent of me first thing on Sunday morning when I’m plodding around in my yoga pants and glasses walking the dog – unappetizing, no frills, what you see is pretty much what you get (and is at its finest when paired with a cup of tea). Welsh baking is simple and homely – it’s supposed to taste good, not look good, and usually be made with whatever you’ve got bashing around in your cupboard. And that’s why I love it.

I fancied making some Bara Brith over the weekend, but I wanted to try something a little different to the traditional tea loaf we all know and love (find my recipe for that right here). I wanted something a bit more bitesized – perfect for lunchboxes, for tea breaks, and for warming up in the microwave and serving with ice cream (I also saw someone serving up pancakes topped with little bits of Bara Brith over the weekend on social media – how genius is that!?). And so, I came up with these Bara Brith Blondies. They’re a really easy twist on the traditional recipe, with the same tea-soaked sultanas and mixed spice flavour, a super moist sponge and a honey drizzled crust. Yum! 🙂

Easy Bara Brith Recipe - Welsh Food and Drink - The Cardiff Cwtch

Bara Brith Blondies

Ingredients
  • 250g sultanas
  • 300ml boiling hot water
  • 1 black teabag (I used Earl Grey)
  • 170g melted butter (cooled)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 260g plain flour
  • runny honey to glaze
Bara Brith for kids Recipe - Welsh Food and Drink - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. Soak your sultanas and teabag in the boiling hot water – leaving them to steep overnight if possible, or for a couple of hours. The sultanas should plump and soak up either all or most of the tea. Discard any leftover water.
  2. Grease and line a deep, rectangular baking tin, and set your oven to 160C.
  3. To make the batter, cream together the melted butter and sugars. Stir in the eggs, mixed spice and vanilla bean paste, and then fold in the flour and tea-soaked sultanas.
  4. Try not to overwork the batter – call it quits when all the ingredients have more or less come together – and then pour it into your baking tin, gently smoothing it into the corners.
  5. Bake for 1 hour, then leave to cool.
  6. Brush the surface with runny honey, and then chop up and scoff with a cuppa. 🙂
Bara Brith Blondies Recipe - Welsh Food and Drink - The Cardiff Cwtch - St David's Day Food

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus, pawb! (Happy Saint David’s Day Everyone!) 💛 You can find a video of this recipe (along with two other easy Welsh Bakes with a Twist) over on my IGTV.

French Crêpes with Boozy Peach Syrup

Happy Pancake Day!

I was having a chat with my Mum and Dad the other day about our holidays to France when I was a kid (bear with me, things are about to get a little overbearingly Proustian…). I spent most of my childhood summers in the nineties on a Eurocamp Campsite in the woods and (nudie) beach near La Palmyre, where I probably ate the best food of my whole life. We had croissants, bread and jam for breakfast outside the caravan every morning, scoffed “chichi” and “mascot” (*shrugs* I dunno, they were a bit like churros and doughnut sandwiches) bought from the (clothed) vendors strolling up and down the beach, ate “poulet avec frites” (rotisserie chicken and chips) for dinner that my Dad used to pick up from the camp takeaway joint every night, and then – big treat! – we all walked down to the on site bar and crêperie for sugary crêpes and Orangina for a very late afters (how I didn’t have a mouth full of metal fillings by the time I was 15, I have no idea). Oh, and then there were a couple of really special trips into Royan to pick up a paper bag full of fresh macaroons (not macarons!) from the local outdoor market. None of it was anything particularly special or unique – it was all just simple, fresh food done really, really well. And there’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it… and drool about it.

Anyway, I was complaining about peaches other day – and how it’s really difficult to get a good one here in the UK. In France I remember picking up ones from the market that were practically the size of my head when I was a kid, and that were so juicy that most of it would be running down your arm and spilling in your lap as you ate it. It just seems impossible to find that kind of quality produce here in the UK, and it made me a little sad and nostalgic for those holidays – and the food – from my childhood. And so I made pancakes… which should probably be the solution to all of life’s problems.

These Crêpes are wafer thin with a perfectly crispy, frilly edge and would be absolutely delicious topped with just about anything, but as I said, I was feeling a bit nostalgic and so I whipped up a boozy peach syrup to go with mine. They’re a little bit like Crêpes Suzette, but not quite. 🙂

French Crepes with Boozy Peach Syrup

Ingredients

For the Crêpes:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 30g melted butter

For the Boozy Peach Syrup:

  • 3 peaches
  • 150ml cold water
  • 100g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 50ml alcohol of your choice (I used schnapps).
  • Top with a handful of flaked almonds

 

Method
  1. First, chop the peaches and then finely blitz in a food processor with the cold water. Sieve the peach juice through a muslin cloth to remove any lumps and bumps.
  2. Grab a saucepan and then bring the peach juice to the boil with the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Turn down the heat and gently simmer for about 20 minutes until the everything is reduced to a syrup.
  3. Whip up the Crêpes: whisk together the flour, milk, eggs and melted butter until you get a smooth batter without lumps. Fry each Crêpe in a little melted butter on a high heat for about a minute on both sides, and then serve up drizzled in peach syrup.

Dydd Crempog Hapus! Happy Pancake Day! 💛💛💛

Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Sweet and Sticky and perfect served warm with ice cream…
Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch

What a wild weekend, right? Hopefully – wherever you’re reading this from – you escaped the worst of storm Dennis (the Menace). Here in Cardiff we’ve experienced the worst flooding in at least forty years. The Taff was the highest that I’ve ever seen it, Bute Park and Pontcanna Fields became a swamp on Sunday morning, and the water slurped so far beyond its normal level that swans were seen strolling down streets in Grangetown. Thankfully my house is on a hill, but other’s haven’t been nearly as lucky. It’s been a bizarre and sad weekend, and one best spent cosying up indoors with a good book and plenty of cake. Good thing I whipped this baby up on Friday!

I feel like bananas are a bit of a divisive fruit. I know people who will absolutely no way – under no circumstances – go anywhere near them, and then there are those who find them… a’peeling (har de har). I absolutely love them; I’ve always got a few banging around in my fruit bowl – and whether they’re soft and freckled, or practically green, they’re hands down the star of this Caramel and Banana Upside Down Cake. With a sticky, sweet and slightly crisp caramel crust on the outside, the cake itself is moist and crumbly and slightly spiced with cinnamon (and rum, if you’re feeling it!). Topped with sliced bananas, you can scoff it cold, or even better, slightly warmed with either cream, ice cream or custard.

…I know what you’re thinking. “Hey Nia, where’s the rest of the cake?” Well, funny story. Whilst the cake itself is very, very easy to make – you can’t rush it out of the tin (no matter how good it smells!). Which is exactly what I did and I ended up with hot caramel all over my kitchen counter. Oops. Do yourself a favour; leave the cake to completely cool in the tin before you turn it out and flip it onto a plate. 😉

Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

Sticky Banana Upside Down Cake

Ingredients

For the Banana Caramel Topping:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 90g butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large bananas sliced lengthways

For the Cake:

  • 150g self raising flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g softened butter
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 150ml yogurt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 100ml dark rum (optional)
Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Bloggers
Method
  1. Set your oven to 170C. Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
  2. To make the caramel, gently heat together the butter, dark muscovado sugar and caster sugar (don’t stir yet!) until melted and combined. Stir in the vanilla bean paste. Pour a little into the bottom of your cake tin, then arrange the bananas (sliced side down) on top. Pour in the rest of the caramel.
  3. To make the cake, cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the whisked eggs. Sift together the flour, salt and cinnamon, then pour it into the bowl and mix with the butter and sugar. Finally stir in the yogurt (and rum).
  4. Pour the cake batter into the tin on top of the caramel and bananas, then bake for 50 minutes (or until an inserted skewer comes out clean).
  5. Important bit! Lightly run a knife around the edge of the cake, and then leave the cake in the tin to cool (if you release it from the tin at this point then the whole thing will collapse and spew molten caramel EVERYWHERE… Speaking from experience!).
  6. Once the cake has completely cooled, turn it out onto a plate with the bananas and caramel facing up. Serve with cream, custard (or ice cream!).
Sticky Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Food Blogger

Have a great week! 🍌🍌🍌

5 Things I’ve Been Loving Lately

My January and February Favourites, from books, to food, to TV…
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It’s been a while since I’ve done a bit of a round up of all the things I’ve been enjoying lately – and what better day to show a little love for my daily loves than on Valentines Day? I mentioned in this post that I enjoyed a very slow, quiet January of self care and gratitude for the little things that make me smile every day, and February has started in much the same way… just with a few more plans scribbled into the ol’ diary and goals for the year ahead. I saw a meme going around saying that January 2020 was a free trial month – well, now I’m officially subscribed and ready to go. Anyway, here are a few things that I’ve been really enjoying lately. 🙂

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch

Pho

I can thank my husband for this one. We’re both big fans of Asian Food – ramen in particular – and a few weeks ago he stumbled into Pho looking for something different to take back to the office for his lunch. He came home that night gushing about the bowl of awesome sauce that he ended up slurping down at his desk, insisting that I had to try it – and that I’d love it more than Ramen. Challenge accepted.

If you’ve never tried Pho before (pronounced “Fuh”), then it’s basically a Vietnamese Noodle Soup with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables including bean sprouts and coriander. It is a lot like Ramen, but it’s lighter and fresher.

Anyway, we popped to Pho on a date night, I ordered the Spicy Chicken Pho and – whaddya know? – I did love it. And now I’m obsessed. I had a craving for it the other night and picked up one of the Blue Dragon Pho Meal Kits and it was a pretty good dupe for what I had at Pho.

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch - Spicy Chicken
Les Parisiennes - Anne Sebba - The Cardiff Cwtch

Parisiennes

You guys know how much I love Women’s History – my shelves are packed full of biographies about History’s most badass babes – and early in January I ended up watching Inglorious Basterds for the hundredth time (I’m also a big Tarrantino fan FYI) and kind of fell down a French Resistance hole. I picked up “Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s” by Anne Sebba to read up a little bit of what it was like for the women of Paris under the Nazi Occupation during World War 2, and so far it’s been a really interesting read. Lots of stories of survival and bravery – as well an interesting dive into why women chose to collaborate with the Germans. I’ve nearly finished reading, if you want a full review, let me know in the comments.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

I feel like I kind of escaped the dreaded winter skin until recently. It’s been a really mild winter until the past couple of weeks where the weather’s been a bit whacky, and in terms of my skin? Everything suddenly started to dry out and give up. (Thank God for the Elemis Facial I had last week!) I’ve had to double down on hand creams, lip balms – and I’ve even had to fish out the old anti-dandruff shampoo. But in terms of my face, I’m actually doing okay – and I think that’s all down to this tub of magic.

I mentioned the Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base in my Best of the Decade Skincare post – I had a small tester of the stuff after picking it up at a Bobbi Brown Makeup Masterclass last year, and completely fell in love with it. A couple of weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t live without it and bought a tub of the stuff. It’s gorgeous stuff. It smells like grapefruit, smooths on over my usual moisturizer, and as well as sinking into the skin quickly and creating the perfect base for my makeup (and a lot more staying power), it also provides an extra boost of moisture. Also, you don’t need a lot of it – a small blob goes a long way!

Patriot

I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of been stuck in TV limbo recently – there’s been absolutely nothing to watch. Vikings is limping towards its finale (it’s just not as good as it used to be), I’m patiently waiting for the new season of Outlander to start (can’t wait!), and for Westworld to return… but in the mean time, it’s been slim pickings. And that’s meant that Sunny and I have been spending night after night of scrolling through the TV Guide/Prime/Netflix trying to find something – anything!- to watch. PAINFUL. And then we stumbled on Patriot. No, not the cheesy Mel Gibson flick.

Patriot is unlike anything I’ve ever watched. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s weird – and those are all boxes I like ticked when it comes to TV. The series follows John, who works off the books for the Government (for his Dad) as a spy. He’s asked to get a job for a company that send their employees overseas to sell piping in order to prevent some kind of arms deal with Iran (…or something, I’m a bit sketchy on the deets). But John’s father uses him like a machine when all John really wants to do is sing country music (he writes his own songs which often feature sensitive spying info). Anyway, he gets into all kinds of sticky situations having to pretend to be an employee of a pipe company (most notably from the bloke he pushed under a car in order to steal the job from him in the first place…!), all the while continuing to work as a spy. Definitely worth a look if you fancy something a bit different.

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch

Morning Walks

Simple, but probably my favourite daily love at the moment: taking Bungle into the field for his morning walk. Until recently, Sunny and I have been walking him on the lead around our village – which is fine for Sunny, but not so much for me because Bungle just doesn’t behave on the lead. He pulls, he lies down, he humps… it’s a struggle. Anyway, just before Christmas Bungle put on a few pounds and so we decided that he needed to run a bit more, rather than just settle for a stomp around the block. I’ve been taking him in the field to run off the lead every morning and – as well as being far easier – it’s quite possibly one of my favourite parts of the day. Bungle loves it, I love it – and we’ve scored some pretty funny burst shots out of it to boot! 🙂

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch Fetch

Happy Friday, guys! Enjoy the Valentines Day weekend whatever you’re up to! ♥

Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes

Dinky, delicious… and downright dangerous.
Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes - Valentines Day Bakes - The Cardiff Cwtch

Valentines Day, Galentines Day… Love Yo’self Day… whichever one of the above you celebrate, the week of looooooove is upon us once again. Sunny and I actually celebrated a couple of weeks ago (here in Wales we celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day instead on the 25th of January) – so I’m totally free this Friday to celebrate the other loves in my life – and that includes myself. I’ve got a hot date with a bathtub, some gin and a good book, and I cannot wait. I’ve also got at least one of these Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes still bashing around in the fridge; I’ve been saving it to scoff during my soak. 😉

I feel like my go-to for a homemade Valentines Day treat always involves a pack of Blood Oranges. It’s kind of becoming a tradition. Last year I made Blood Orange Curd, as well as this Heart Shaped Blood Orange Upside Down Cake. And who could forget those Blood Orange-Glazed Doughnuts I made the year before that? I think they’re quite possibly my all time favourite.  Part of the reason I pick them is because they just happen to be in season this time of year – they’re definitely one of my favourite things to spot in the supermarket during January – but they also happen to be my favourite citrus fruit because I usually find that they’re sweeter and juicier than your bog standard orange. Oh, and lastly, they’re pink, and they’re pretty to look at and photograph. Duh.

These miniature cheesecakes are a bit of a throwback to the horrendously 80s cheesecake that my Mum and Dad used to buy down the freezer aisle when I was a kid (…and they still do to this day). You know, the one with the bright orange jelly and tangerine segments on top? The parts are all there, I’ve just shrunk it down to cupcake size and given it a bit of a face-lift. The base is made from blitzed Biscoff biscuits, the creamy, baked cheesecake filling has that slightly tangy New York Cheesecake flavour, and then it’s all topped off with a vegetarian blood orange jelly and a candied blood orange segment. They’re really easy to make and are a sweet way of treating your favourite people this Valentines Day.

Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes - Easy Cheesecake Recipes - The Cardiff Cwtch

Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes

Makes 10
Ingredients

For the Cheesecakes:

  • 24 Biscoff biscuits (around 180g)
  • 30g melted butter
  • 360g full fat cream cheese
  • 70g sour cream
  • 110g caster sugar
  • zest of one blood orange
  • 2 eggs, whisked

For the jelly:

  • juice of one blood orange (about 100ml)
  • 200ml cold water
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 sachet of veggie gel

For the candied Blood Orange segments:

  • 1 blood orange, thinly sliced
  • 200ml water
  • 200ml caster sugar
Mini Blood Orange Cheesecakes - Cheesecake Cupcakes - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. Grab a muffin tray and line it with ten muffin cases. Heat your oven to 180°C (fan).
  2. First, make the cheesecake base: blitz your biscuits in a food processor until they’re soft and grainy (…and look a lot like sand!). Stir in the melted butter, and then spoon a little bit of the mixture into each muffin case. Gently press down to a create a level base. Make sure you don’t pack it down too much or your base is going to be hard when it sets. You want it to crumble a little.
  3. To make the creamy cheesecake filling, whisk together the cream cheese, sour cream, caster sugar, eggs and blood orange zest. You want an airy, smooth texture (no lumps!); the smoother it is, the creamier the cheesecake. Divide that mixture equally between the muffin cases, and then bake for 20 minutes. The cheesecakes will puff and rise in the oven, and they’ll probably crack a little. You’ll know they’re done when they start to tan a little on top. Leave them in the muffin tray in their cases to cool.
  4. While your cheesecakes are cooling, make the candied blood orange segments. Sounds difficult, but it’s actually really easy. First, grab a deep saucepan, pop your sliced blood orange segments into it and then cover them with water. Bring them to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes until the peel goes soft. Remove the blood orange segments and pop them in a bowl of cold water. Don’t throw away the water in the saucepan – it’s packed full of juice and you’re going to use it to make the syrup. Measure 200ml of that juice and then pour it back in the saucepan with the caster sugar. Dissolve the sugar on a low heat, and then pop the blood orange segments in. Allow them to simmer on a low heat in the syrup for 30 minutes – turning them occasionally to coat both sides. Once done, fish them out and then leave them to cool on a piece of baking paper.
  5. Once your cheesecakes have cooled completely, make the jelly. Again, not as tricky as it sounds! Combine your blood orange juice and 200ml of cold water. Stir in the caster sugar until it dissolves, and then do the same with the veggie gel (watch out for lumps!). Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring it to the boil – and then divide it between your cheesecake cups. Top each one with a candied blood orange slice.
  6. Put the cheesecakes in the fridge to set and cool for at least 2 hours before scoffing. 😉
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Have a lovely week!